Sunday, 20 August 2017

My dad

my dad, it would be hard to have had a kinder, more supportive dad, we were very fortunate to have you for so long and will all miss you a lot
Dad at home, 8 June 2017, still very much on the ball, keen to know how the grandchildren were doing and interested in how many birds I had seen and where I was going next.

Birding seems rather trivial at present, especially as I've hardly seen anything of note.

Sunday 20 August. Cissbury Ring with Megan and Cookie: A Swallow, 2 juvenile Stonechats, 2 Wheatears, 11 Whitethroats, 6 Willow Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Yellowhammer. Low tide on the Adur: 54+ Ringed Plover, 17 + Dunlin, adult anbd juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Reed Warbler.

Saturday 19 August. A Wheatear and 27 Goldfinches on the Trundle with Megan, Nessa and Cookie. Megan and Nessa went to the Chichester Festival Theatre while Cookie and I walked from Stapleash Farm through West Dean Woods, along the South Downs Way to the Devil's Jumps and back past Monkton Farm. It was very quiet with a single Red Kite, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff and 20 Swallows.

Friday 18 August. Adur: 5 Ringed Plover, juvenile Mediterranean Gull, a Swallow chasing a Wheatear on the Rec, single Reed and Willow Warbler and 16 Goldfinches. Dad's funeral. Very moving but he'd had a good long life.

Thursday 17 August. A Sparrowhawk dashed low across the garden being briefly chased by one of the adolescent crows.

Wednesday 16 August. Mill Hill with Cookie: 6 Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler. Steepdown with Megan and Cookie: 2 Golden Plover flew west, 9 Swallows, 3 Whitethroats, 45 Goldfinches and single Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting.

Sunday 13 August. Visit to Standen with Megan and Nessa where I walked throuygh the woods with Cookie seeing just 6 Swallows.

Saturday 12 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. 4 Buzzards, 4 Kestrels, 12 Swifts, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.

Friday 11 August. Adur: 28 Ringed and a moulting adult Grey Plover, 12 Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper (heard).

Thursday 10 August. A Wheatear on Southwick Beach on my way to work and 4 Swifts over the house in the evening, almost certainly the last of the year.

Wednesday 9 August. Dad slipped away peacefully at 14:!5. Mum, Anna and I were at his bedside and Ruth was landing at Gatwick. We stayed with him until Ruth arrived two hours later. The Royal Sussex County Hospital Staff were absolutely brilliant throughout. 

Tuesday 8 August. Another emotional hospital visit although dad was more aware and took comfort in our (mum, Anna and my) presence and the knowledge that Ruth was coming on her way from New Zealand. A Wheatear on Southwick Beach and just one Swift over the house in the evening.

Monday 7 August. An early call from the hospital where I then spent an emotional day with mum and Anna at Dad's bedside. He was hanging on peacefully but hardly aware of our presence. 14 Swifts over the house in the evening were a joy.

Sunday 6 August. South Downs Way west of Devil's Dyke: 6 Kestrels, a Buzzard, 6 Swallows, a House Martin, 70 Meadow Pipits and 20 Goldfinches. Later 6 Swifts over the house.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Autumn is coming (West Sussex early August)

Saturday 5 August. Wanting to see a few more waders I went down to Pagham stopping at Sidlesham Ferry where I became distracted by a small fall of warblers in the bushes. I decided to walk to Church Norton seeing 36 Willows, 7 Reed and 11 Sedge Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and 5 Whitethroats. Nice but by the time I arrived I was surprised to see the tide had come in sufficiently far to move off many of the waders (it was over two hours before a neap high tide). Looking into the light wasn't great either although I consoled myself that it would have been worse had I been earlier. On the ferry and in the harbour I saw 5 Avocets, 5 Little Ringed Plover, a Sanderling, 35.75 Dunlin (the 0.75 refusing to convince as a Little Stint), 67 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, 3 Greenshank, a Green and 2 Common Sandpipers and 32 Turnstone. Also adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gull and at least one distant juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, 10 Sandwich Terns, Peregrine and 4 Sand Martins. Later on Mill Hill 4 Willow Warblers and 7 Swifts with at least 11 of the latter over the house in the evening. The main downside of autumn coming is that the swifts won't be around for much longer.

Reed Warbler at Sidlesham

Adonis Blue at Mill Hill
Friday 4 August. Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury seeing my first Wheatear of the autumn, a young looking juvenile. Also 3 Green Woodpeckers, 4 Stonechats, 14 Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler. 13 Swifts were over the house in the evening.

Stonechat at Cissbury
very young Wheatear at Cissbury

mushroom village
Wednesday 2 August. Quiet at Mill Hill with 2 Swallows, a singe Whitethroat and 2 Ravens seen. A walk to Dacre Gardens from Cuckoo's Corner was better with 6 Common Sandpipers and a Sedge Warbler. Cookies third walk of the day was a wetter affair top check the Adur for gulls. None of note were seen although a/the Whimbrel and a flock of 16 Black-tailed Godwits that departed south made the visit worthwhile.

Common Sandpiper opposite Dacre Gardens
Tuesday 1 August. I saw 4 Green Woodpeckers on my way into work. At Pulborough in the evening were a Wood and 8 Green Sandpipers, a Barn Owl, 2 Mandarin and 6 Sand Martins on the North Brooks. The sandpipers flew off west just before dusk.
Pulborough North Brooks
Monday 31 July. 13 Swifts were over the house in the evening.

Sunday 30 July. At Shoreham Fort a Common Scoter flew east while single Dunlin and Turnstone were in/on the harbour. In the evening 12 Swifts were flying over the house.

Turnstone on Shoreham Harbour

Saturday 29 July. A small fall of migrants in one of the hedges at Mill Hill where I saw 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 5 Whitethroats and 3 Garden Warblers. Also Peregrine, 7 Swifts and a male Yellowhammer. Later near Hertsmonceaux 2 Willow Warblers and some Black-legged Gulls.
Black-legged Gulls
HMS Mersey waiting for the tide off Shoreham Harbour on 27 July

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Yellow-legged Gulls (27 July) and other colour-ringed gulls on the Adur

Thursday 27 July. Megan was away and I was looking after Cookie for a couple of days and so switched Thursday when normally working for Friday when not. It didn't seem a particularly good idea at Shoreham Harbour where no interesting gulls and only a single Gannet offshore. A Common Sandpiper flying around the harbour and a Sanderling west were something but looking along to Widewater the few gulls on the beach were greatly outnumbered by dogs. We moved straight to the Adur by Shoreham Airport as the tide was low. Another Common Sandpiper and a Whimbrel were my first of the autumn and amongst the mainly Herring Gulls were two juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls. Neither were the bird(s) seen at Shoreham Harbour and Widewater Beach yesterday, one wearing a yellow colour-ring from a German or perhaps Swiss scheme. It is the first colour-ringed Yellow-legged Gull I've seen and takes my Adur total of colour-ringed gulls seen between the railway bridge and A27 fly-over to 136. The others are 80 Herring, 33 Great Black-backs, 8 Lesser Black-backs, 5 each of Mediterranean and Common, 3 Black-headed and star of the show a single Caspian (examples follow).
Yellow-legged Gull HD429 on the Adur 27 July 2017

River Adur looking south to the railway bridge. Gulls usually roost on the sandbar when it is exposed at low tide, unless bait diggers are present. Windy days and afternoons are generally best.
Examples of previous colour-ringed gulls on the Adur:
Black-headed Gull 2DL on 04 March 2017. From a Danish scheme (one of the rare ones not to reply when details of the bird were sent) 
German Common Gull A17H on 26 February 2017. Ringed as 3CY on the North Frisian Island of Anrum in July 2011 and seen there in June 2012.
Great Black-backed Gull JE486 late on 21 November 2010. Ringed as pullus in Vest-Agder, Norway in June 2009, seen in Vest-Agder in July and August 2009, at Dungeness in March 2010 and Rustington in May 2010. Later it was seen at Arlington Reservir in October 2011, Buskerud, Norway in April 2012 and back in Vest-Agder in July 2013.
North Thames Herring Gull J0LT on 05 December 2015. Almost 25% of the colour-ringed birds seen on the Adur are from this scheme. This one was ringed as a 3CY or older at Pitsea Tip in Essex in December 2014 before I saw it  on the Adur several times the following winter. I've seen a few Channel hoppers so this is pretty dull in comparison but it has the best ring number - they should have saved it for a Caspian though.
Lesser Black-backed Gull 9H3 on 30 June 2012. Ringed as four years or older female at Chouet Landfill, Guernsey in May 2011 and seen on Alderney two months later.
Mediterranean Gull 36A2 on 08 October 2011. It was ringed as pullus in Zuid-Holland, Netherlands in June 2003, seen in German in May/June 2010 and the Weymouth area in July, August and October 2010.

Caspian Gull XNEK on 05 October 2014. It had been ringed in SE Germany that June (see for more details)
colour-rings not so easy to read when birds are standing in water
certainly my star CR bird to date
The very next day I returned to the Adur looking for the Caspian Gull but it wasn't seen again. Instead I saw the one bird I really do wish had a ring on it:
Lesser Black-backed Gull on 06 October 2014. I suspected it might be Baltic but you can't do much without a ring (see Ironically two juvenile Lesser Black-backs were also present and both had rings (one from Suffolk and the other, presumably, Denmark - but another no response) 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Yellow-legged Gull at Shoreham (26 July)

Wednesday 26 July. I took Cookie down to Shoreham Harbour where a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was sitting on the very end of the West Arm with a few young Herring Gulls and a Great Black-back. It was my first of the summer and most welcome, although hardly surprsing with gull enthusiasts having seen juveniles recently at Eastbourne, Beachy, Newhaven and even Selsey. I tried some phone scoped photos most of which were dreadful but a few come out after a fashion. I had a bit more success digiscoping with a pocket camera and even better walking up and using my Bridge Camera although I didn't get the flight shots I had hoped for. Also seen were 2 Oystercatchers and 2 Sandwich Terns. We went on to Widewater where the Mute Swan family (2 adults and 4 full-sized cygnets) were on the lagoon. By now it was raining but it was low tide so we walked back along the exposed sand. Here the Yellow-legged Gull, or another very similar looking individual, was stabbing at a washed up eel. It flew off at our approach but settled further down the beach although photos were poor looking directly into the rain. A brief stop at the Adur produced no waders and 100+ mainly adult Herring Gulls. It was then time to visit the Post Office and the dentist ...
Yellow-legged Gull at Shoreham Harbour, one of my better (more fluky) attempts at phone scoping

shows the elongated rear, small head, darkish mask and mean-looking bill
nice white edges to mantle feathers, coverts and tertials
digiscoped image with juvenile Great Black-backed Gull for comparison
moving closer with the Bridge Camera, juvenile Herring Gull for comparison


Yellow-legged Gull at Widewater in the rain
if it wasn't the same bird it looked very similar
it appears less contrasting due to the film of water on my camera lens!
dead eel washed up on Widewater Beach. The Yellow-legged Gull was pecking at it but despite its heavy bill it wasn't making much of an impression
Tuesday 25 July. No sign of any Great Black-backed Gulls on the roofs but 2 adults and at least 2 youngsters were flying over Middle Road when I cycled off to work.

Monday 24 July. A pair of Mute Swans with three cygnets were by the lock-gates when I came home from work. The Great Black-backed Gull family appears to have left the roofs behind our house with none seen before or after work. Just one Swift over the garden although I only looked a couple of times.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Crowlink and Belle Tout (23 July)

Sunday 23 July. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk from Crowlink to Belle Tout. It is a nice circuit with the potential for something interesting although that is unlikely in July. And so it seemed this time until a Cuckoo flew out from bushes by the lower path just east of Belle Tout. It landed in a tree half way up to the lighthouse, sat for long enough for me to reach for my camera but not to find it in the viewfinder. My first at Beachy since August 2014 and according to LP only the second this season. Otherwise it was very quiet, our not arriving much before 09:00 probably not helping. I saw single Little Egret, Peregrine, Swallow and Corn Bunting, 6 Meadow Pipits, 7 Stonechats and 2 Ravens. The Great Black-backed Gull family were still present, the youngsters not having moved from their new roof. 
Raven along the cliff edge
Megan and Cookie
Saturday 22 July. I took Cookie on a two hour circuit from Lancing Ring to Cowbottom, Coombes and Steep Down. Nice weather and views but rather quiet for birds. I saw Sparrowhawk, 85 Swifts, Green Woodpecker, 10 Sky Larks, 45 Swallows, 20 House Martins, Meadow Pipit, 6 Whitethroats and 16 Corn Buntings. The Great Black-backed Gull family were still present, the youngsters after last evenings trials had moved onto the roof to the south - crossing a gap of about three feet! Seven Swifts over the house.
juvenile Swallow at Cowbottom

Cissbury from Steep Down
Corn Bunting on Steep Down 

Truleigh Hill from Steep Down
Great Black-backed Gulls having moved roof
Friday 21 July. Megan and I took Cookie to Chantry Hill and we walked along the South Downs Way to Rackham Hill and back. Seven Yellowhammers were sinning and we saw single Red Kite, Swift and Raven. Later a Hobby flew west over the Adur while it was an otherwise typica visit - two Little Egrets, two Oystercatchers and under 100 mainly Herring and Black-headed Gulls. Ahead of a storm in the evening a flock of at least 70 Swifts were over the house, I often think they are at thier brilliant best in rough weather. Almost until dark the three young Great Black-backed Gulls were distracting my TV viewing with much jumping and flapping on the apex of their roof pretty much in my line of sight. One managed to stay airborn fror 3-4 seconds while it or another 'flew' 3-4 metres.

view north from Rackham Hill
Yellowhammer singing its head off

holiday traffic adding to congestion around the A27 flyover
Thursday 20 July. The three young Great Black-backed Gulls were still on their roof with bouts of jumping and flapping in the evening. I've not seen both adults on the roof together for a while now although one is usually there or thereabouts. Just one Swift was seen overhead.

Wednesday 19 July. I visited Pulborough seeing 4 Green and a Common Sandpiper on the North Brooks - not something it is easy to do with Cookie. A few small birds on the heathland included 1-2 adult Spotted Flycatchers with 2 juveniles, 2 Nuthatches and 3 Treecreepers. The three young Great Black-backed Gulls were still on their roof although the night's storm appeared to have dislodged some if the sticks from their abandoned nest.
young Green Woodpecker at Pulborough
Great Black-backed Gull playing with sticks, presumably from their nest


Tuesday 18 July. The three young Great Black-backed Gulls were still on their roof, usually with one adult keep an eye on them from the next roof over. Seven Swifts over the road in the evening.

Monday 17 July.  A Peregrine flew behind Southwick Power Station as I was cycling home form work. The three young Great Black-backed Gulls were still on their roof, pestering an adult when it came in with food. Fifteen Swifts over the road in the evening.

Sunday 16 July. I took Cookie fromn Cuckoo's Corner up to Dace Gardens and back. Birds seen included Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Sandpipers on the river, 100+ Swifts, 45 Swallows, 6 House Martins, 2 Sedge Warblers (2 Reeds were also heard) and 7 Reed Buntings. The three young Great Black-backed Gulls were still on their roof with an adult nearby. Seventeen Swifts over the house in the evening.
Common Sandpiper at Dacre Gardens

Cookie drinking from a puddle

Kestrel near Cuckoo's Corner
Reed Bunting with grasshopper
Saturday 15 July. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill seeing single Swift, Whitethroat and Blackcap and 4 Sky Larks. Later 3 Little Egrets and a Redshank were on the Adur along with a few Herring and Black-headed Gulls while 2 Greenfinches were the most notable birds along Southwick Canal. The three young Great Black-backed Gulls were still on their roof with an adult nearby. Twelve Swifts over the garden in the evening.
Lancing Ring and Steep Down from Mill Hill
juvenile Herring Gull on the Adur, any hopes it might be a Yellow-legged were deflated by its tertials

two of the Great Black-backed Gulls on their roof